You and your soon-to-be-ex spouse may still be under the same roof in Massachusetts, or you might have already separated or found temporary arrangements apart from one another. Regardless of your current living situation, your regular monthly bills are still coming in. How do you know who should be paying the household bills during your divorce?
If you own a home, you'll surely have utility bills including cable and Internet as well as mortgage and car payments to make. There are probably also credit card and loan statements, car, life and health insurance costs, and many other bills. No matter your current relationship with your spouse, determining who pays what might be confusing at first.
Below are a few financial matters you're likely facing during divorce and how to consider handling them.
Stick with What You Know
To avoid complicating an already complex situation, it's a good idea to avoid taking on new financial responsibilities until after the divorce is finalized. Couples at the early stages of a Massachusetts divorce often find it simplest to keep the status quo in terms of paying household bills - to continue to share bills that were typically shared, and take care of ones that one spouse usually covered alone. If one spouse covered the homeowners insurance every month, for example, it's advisable for that person to continue doing so until the final agreement about ownership of the house is made.
When determining payment for bills for which you and your spouse did not have a consistent payment plan, here's a good rule of thumb:
If your name is the only one on a bill, you should pay the bill (if possible). Joint accounts on which both spouses' names are included will likely require negotiations between you and your spouse. If you already have a clear picture of who will keep certain responsibilities and items (such as the car or house) after the divorce, the best idea is to start taking on the bills and expenses for those things.
From the time you file for divorce, document the bills you're covering. You'll have an opportunity to show these records to your lawyer and to the court as a snapshot of your regular earning and spending as well as the typical division of responsibility for paying bills.
Some divorcing spouses also open new, individual bank accounts and lines of credit to protect their finances after filing for divorce. It's acceptable to do so, but transparency is key because you will be expected to share information about new finances with the court as your divorce proceeds.
Getting Help with Negotiations
Depending on your existing relationship with your soon-to-be-ex, you may need help coming to an agreement about household bills until the divorce is finalized.
Your lawyer can help you work out the terms that make the most sense.
Temporary orders by the court can make those agreements legally binding if necessary.
Attorney Renee Lazar has helped couples navigate these and other complexities as they move through the divorce process. Contact our firm either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to get the assistance you need to have the best outcome possible.